Though summer will not officially begin for another month, it will feel like summer has arrived. The good news is that those swimming pools that have been beckoning will finally be warm enough to enjoy. The not-so-good news is that it is going to be a little uncomfortable to be outdoors during the mid-day hours. For desert gardeners, this means that gardening chores have to be accomplished early or saved for later in the evening.
One of the chores that many of us will face is how to manage all of the insects that come with hotter weather. Even though some will opt for the use of chemicals to combat them, there are safer alternatives that work and do not harm the delicate eco-balance of our planet. Some examples of non-chemical solutions include mechanical devices for weed control, diatomaceous earth (DE) for fleas and ticks, bacillus thuringiensis (BT) for cabbage loopers and caterpillars, and soapy water spray for aphids. The release of ladybugs, lacewings and mantises is also a good way to control some unwanted insects.
- Spring is a good time to prune palm trees.
- Do not prune citrus trees except to trim away small branches that inhibit structures, walkways etc.
- Prune spring-flowering trees, shrubs and vines after they bloom.
- Increase watering on everything this month. This can be accomplished by increasing either volume or frequency. The rule is to water deeply but as infrequently as possible to maintain plant health.
- Bermuda lawns require from one to three inches of water per week to stay healthy.
- Most trees require watering to a depth of one to three feet. Water all the way out to the drip line (edge of the canopy) to promote healthy growth.
- Pecan trees require more water than most other desert shade trees.
- Shrubs usually need a watering depth of six to twelve inches, depending on their size.
- Apply a nitrogen fertilizer to Bermuda lawns early in the month.
- Feed Bermuda lawns a monthly dose of iron.
- Continue feeding established roses. Liquid fertilizers can be used every two weeks.
- Feed citrus trees this month.
- Foliar feed all landscape plants every two weeks.
- Pecan trees will appreciate a dose of nitrogen and zinc fertilizers.
- Follow directions on the packaging of all fertilizers.
- Apply mulch around landscape plantings, in gardens and on any bare soil areas. Take care not to mulch right up to the base of plants or trees, as this practice can lead to disease or pest problems.
- Soft fruits, such as peaches and apricots will need to be covered for protection from birds.
- Thatching of Bermuda lawns can be done this month. Thatching is only recommended during the months of active growth (May through August), and should be done every second or third year.
- Beginning in May, tomato plants may need some added sun protection such as shade cloth.
- May is a good time to plant Bermuda grass.
- Plant from seed: Black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, muskmelon and sunflowers.
- Plant from transplants: artichokes (Jerusalem) and sweet potatoes.
- Citrus trees can still be planted in May. Keep in mind that trees up to five years old, will accept transplanting more readily than older trees will.
Because of the decline of the honeybee population, plants with separate male and female flowers such as melons, squash and cucumbers may need additional help by hand-pollination. Visit Pollinator.com for an illustrated guide on hand-pollination.
Even though temperatures will reach and surpass triple-digits, the evenings will still be comfortable enough for outdoor gatherings and entertaining. May is a great month to enjoy all of your outdoor spaces. Whether you plan a group event or an intimate dinner for two, your garden can be a fabulous gathering spot this month!
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